Laying an Egg

There’s one solid, memorable, and potent gag in Jack and Beanstalk. Utterly incompetent Jack (Bud Abbott) meets a horse-riding Prince in the forest who asks if the road will take him to the palace. Jack responds, “No sir, but your horse will.”

After that, it’s an hour of uninspired slapstick, maybe worthy of a giggle, but not enough to endure the crummy song and dance routines that clog an already thin storybook adaptation. Jack and the Beanstalk runs on absolute fumes, from its non-existent energy to chintzy production values.

Jack and the Beanstalk feels more like a TV skit

Great comedians overcome lacking imagination. Abbott and Costello turned Universal’s then tired monster series into quality spoofs, proving their capabilities. Jack and the Beanstalk merely limps into existence, cruddy fantasy gags book-ended by a needless babysitting plot. Abbott’s cozy, charming idiocy lacks refinement, as “going through the motions” as this team ever was. And Costello does next to nothing, the script trying desperately to find room for him as an “agent” for Abbott’s for-hire pal, then as dead weight once into the fantasy realm.

There’s so little worth speaking of in this feature. It’s difficult to even stamp this as a feature since Jack and the Beanstalk feels more like a TV skit forcibly pushed into theatrical length. Comedy teams whiffed even in their prime, but rarely more so than Jack and the Beanstalk.

Video

Well this is terrible. VCI claims a new 4K master, and maybe so. Sadly, it’s sourced from a print that at times barely qualifies as complete. Early on, lines of dialog disintegrate as frames drop. Not one or two, but frames by the dozens potentially. Nasty vertical scratches rarely ease up, this in addition to other damage, from cigarette burns and literal tears. A good chunk of Jack and Beanstalk’s runtime is spent watching a small pin prick flicker, dead center near the frame’s bottom.

It appears VCI inserts SD imagery in spots, likely to replace lost footage. Resolution drops happen harshly, and simultaneously introduce significant DVD-like compression. While encoding doesn’t impress overall, there’s no consistency, floundering to handle what’s left of a minimal grain structure.

Dismal clarity and detail barely register to any notable degree. Eastman color does this presentation no favors either, severely yellowed overall, but oddly, those dips into sub-HD material mentioned above sport better (and brighter) saturation than anything else. Opening and closing in sepia tints, those scenes vary in contrast, at times borderline in brightness. Depth fails miserably though.

Audio

Garish PCM gives no life to a rotting audio track. A persistent hiss wavers only in severity. Popping and skipping further ruin things. Near the end, not long after Abbott climbs down from the stalk, there’s what sounds like radio static interfering. Forget fidelity too; that’s lifeless. The songs crumble trying to reproduce treble.

Be prepared for a 10+ decibel jump right at the end when Abbott breaks out into song too.

Extras

VCI includes Africa Screams, although drawn from a lesser source at SD quality (at best). Trailers follow.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Jack and the Beanstalk
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